Our Palo Alto dreams and realities

Our Palo Alto dream house at 601 Melville

Our Palo Alto dream house at 601 Melville

I had a strange feeling that I have not quite reconciled last week sitting thru two hours as a guest of the Housing Element committee — there were about 16 of us there total — and then walking home, from Lucie Stern to Downtown North, passing by some beautiful and elegant Professorville Houses, chiefly on Melville and then Waverly.

We were debating how Palo Alto would change if we let R-30 be built rather than R-15, along El Camino for example. That’s 30 housing units per acre.

I don’t think any Palo Altan wants to live above or below another Palo Altan. People aspire to live, if not in an historic district then a cute Eichler in South Palo Alto.

After sitting thru several of these Our Palo Alto / Comp Plan / scoping meetings — some with hors devours and others with merely filtered water, if you ask the right attendant – I have a distinct distrust for the process. It seems we are under severe pressure by highly incentivized special interests to not resist both more office space and more dense housing and upzoning. The framing of the issues seem to assume we will not actually resist. The four choices are not choices per se. (And the “do nothing” option is given short shrift; it takes a tremendous amount of effort in recent times to preserve the status quo).

I am for a park at Ventura if Fry’s leaves, for example and not more housing, which is considered off the charts. I look at Greer Park as precedent (when the Drive-In failed).

I don’t think these issues are being debated as much as this is a dog-and-pony show. And we the taxpayers are paying $1.7 million to a consultant in Berkeley to guide us through this? (No wonder they are all dressed so nicely — some of us do this just for reasons of conscience and concern for our fellows).


And for the record I grew up here and am a renter. Someone brought up the issue, at the Housing Element meeting, that maybe as a type of resistance and a concerted effort to protect the middle class here, we should have a tenants union and maybe rent control and not just mandatory mediation (via Human Relations Commission) which to my mind is a landlord amenity.

I would think the same energy is needed and more timely to defend our neighbors at Buena Vista Mobile Park: leadership should broker a deal there.


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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